Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Total Recall from dependancy

Author: Mercy Chakoma (Food security & Nutrition Officer)

Tsogolo Labwino Project funded by AUSAID through ADRA Australia (Salima District, Malawi)

Sometimes life begins at 40. At least this is what Metrina Mkumpha agrees to be true, she feels like a fresh college graduate, as finally, at the age of 49 she is able to handle her own money and run a small business, thanks to the support she received from the Tsogolo Labwino project’s Village Savings and Loans initiative.

Before her introduction to the Savings and Loans group Metrina Mkumpha as per tradition, hoped to become a respect elder in her village after spending 30 years in marriage. During this time she had become fully reliant on her husbands provision for basic house hold needs and the needs of their 8 children. She had no concept of one day playing the role of household head for her family.

Metrina could smell the sweetness of good fortune with the many children she had born. However, roses started to mix with thorns when her husband developed a drinking problem and later married another woman from a nearby village. Her husband spent most of the time with his new wife, leaving her alone and with little to no assistance, she couldn’t even get help from her children who had all married and moved to distant villages.

Hard times forced Metrina to learn how to participate in group activities. She joined women in a neighboring village who were assisting each other through round robin, fortnight contributions for two members at a time. With this arrangement she received K3,000 after two months, in a group of 10 women. Although this provided some welcomed relief she had to wait for long periods of time before the benefits could be realized.

When the Tsogolo Labwino project introduced the Savings and Loans initiative to the Chisangalalo women’s group, Metrina promptly joined. Upon joining the group Metrina was elected the groups chairperson. To ensure her total commitment she quit the first group, as per the requirements of the Savings and Loans group constitution.

Within three months of her time in the Savings and Loans group Metrina has bought K2000 in shares which has entitled her access to loans. Metrina says that the current initiative allows her to save whilst having regular access to loans when needed. If the amount for the loan is not enough, she will get back her shares with interest after 12 months which is double the benefit from the previous single saving group.

Already she has borrowed three loans. The first two loans Metrina used to start up a baking business before changing to tomato vending in April. The reason for her change was because she realized that the baking business did not attract many customers in the harvesting season as people have a wide variety of food to eat such as, cassava, sweet potato and green maize.

Metrina expects to buy more shares in the coming months through her business. She also dreams of roofing her house with corrugated iron sheets one day. She is very sure to achieve this dream because as chairperson of this savings and loans group and also a committee member of Kumanga Umodzi committee she has to be exemplary.

Metrina encourages all women to work hard, including women who have husbands because from her personal experience she saw the struggle that comes from trying to earn a living for one self when the man is no longer around. She has also found that men sometimes are more motivated to stay with women who contribute financially to their family other than just through household chores.

Have you guessed the conclusion to her ordeal?

The husband wants to come back home and is often found pestering their marriage counselors to reconcile them because he can now see Metrina’s potential in contributing to their household.

Metrina Mkumpha (in white blouse) selling tomatoes at her home stead.

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